6 min read


Is Your Dog A Healer?



6 min read


Is Your Dog A Healer?


Ever noticed how dogs lick their wounds? Do they possess a magic elixir in their saliva that heals better than anything the vet can prescribe?

Dogs have a natural instinct to heal with their mouths and their healing powers have even been known to help people. It can be downright annoying watching Rover lick a tiny cut for what seems hours on end, but he’s using his gifts from nature to make him well again There may be more to this dog licking phenomena than meets the eye, so let’s put it under the microscope and take a closer look.


Signs Your Dog Is Trying To Heal His Wound

Chelsea was out in the backyard playing happily with her ball when her owner heard a sharp bark and knew something was wrong. Chelsea, her gorgeous miniature poodle, was holding up her left paw and after close examination, her pet mom could see a tiny cut on the leg. After gently bathing it nice and clean, Chelsea retreated to her cozy bed and began licking the cut like crazy. Gracie, her loving pet mom, was a little concerned as she knew very little about this dog licking ritual, so quickly rang the vet, who told her to bring Chelsea in.

Some folks believe that dogs should be left to lick at their wounds, but constant licking could make it worse. Trying to get your pup to stop may be a mission, especially if they growl or whine when you tell them to stop. They are only doing what comes naturally, with evolution leading the charge - but it's probably wise to let the vet check it out.

Even at the clinic, Chelsea could be defensive, pacing up and down in the waiting room and cowering at the sight of the vet. She might not want him to touch her so she’s scratching at the floor and making it clear she wants to go home. Pupsters can get anxious when confronted with the vet and can display signs of aggression or fear. 

Dog versus vet is an age-old dispute, but most caring professionals are good at getting canines to cooperate. That is except for Chelsea, who is now howling like a baby and shaking like a leaf. Her pet mom is wondering if she should have left her to quietly lick her wound. 

When ancient dogs lived in the wild, they had to tend to their own wounds in order to survive. Luckily, Mother Nature gave them the ability to lick their wounds clean with power-packed saliva designed to kill germs. Vets may be on hand in today’s modern world to help dogs that have been hurt, but it appears our doggy pals are still carrying on the tradition of tending to their own wounds.

If the cut needs stitches, it’s recommended your dog wears a cone so they won’t open the wound by constantly licking. If you accidentally cut yourself while prepping a meal, watch out for your pooch, who will instinctively want to help  They could get a bit fussed if you tell them to sit or move away, as doing this is in their make-up and they just want to clean that nasty wound!

Body Language

Here are signs your dog may want to heal his wounds:<br/>

  • Barking
  • Jumping Up
  • Wag Tail
  • Ears Drop
  • Pacing

Other Signs

Here are other signs to watch for if your dog is trying to heal his wounds:<br/>

  • Scratching
  • Shaking
  • Obsessive Licking
  • Wimpering

The History of Dogs Healing


History is buzzing with dog-ters who were immortalized for their super-powers of healing and it may have started with the breed of the Maltese Terrier.

Ancient Egyptians believed Pharaoh fur-babies could restore a person’s health if they slept with them close by, and in Aztec times the “Mexican Hairless Dog” was also considered a healer who could cure insomnia, asthma and arthritis. The story of Lazarus in the Bible talks of dogs licking the beggar’s scabs and medieval literature implies dogs licking their wounds was a way of washing away sin. In ancient Greece, dogs were revered for their ability to heal in a sanctuary honoring the Greek God of medicine, where sacred pups would lick the wounds of the sick. Dogs were exalted in history as a kind of physician who had a talent for healing all kinds of ailments.

The granddaddy of contemporary doggos licked each other’s wounds in a pre-historic landscape of predators and prey, where there were no vets to clean them up and send them back out into the wild. Our canine roommates have, over time, transferred their doctor-doggy skills onto us humans, who they may see as part of their pack. So if we are hurt, their natural instinct to heal us kicks in

Psychologically, dogs have been helping heal wounds of the mind and soul since the day they became man’s best friend. Dogs as therapy friends are renowned for their natural ability to make you feel good.

Dogs are amazing comforters, who can help people with psychiatric issues heal. The one thing you can rely on with our 4-legged pals is that they are magic listeners and are with you through the good times and the bad. 

In times of war, dogs were told to lie next to dying soldiers to offer comfort. This is a beautiful aspect of our canine healers, who always knows what is needed, even before we do. Patients' eyes light up at the sight of a fur-baby appearing by their bed in hospital, as do seniors in retirement homes where the appearance of a cute, fluffy pup lifts the spirits of the old.

The Science Behind Dogs as Healers


Batten down the hatches, as Science has a lot to say about dogs and the belief they can heal wounds.

Since the advent of our doggy-mates, we’ve been told that when Rover licks your wound it's good for it and likely to make it heal faster than modern medicine could.

Science says NO to this and wants to dispel the myth with cold hard facts that tell us the saliva in a dogs mouth helps cleanse their wounds but may be toxic to humans. Certain zootonic bacteria in a dog’s mouth can lead to gastrointestinal disease and a few other nasties you won’t want to contract.

How many of us n the 21st century still believe having a dog lick your wound is natures way and probably the best? It just goes to show how history holds on tight and we go with the flow of what grandma told us, disputing this new knowledge as typical scientists, blowing smoke where there is none.

There’s a good chance your dog will not harm you if he licks a wound but will you take the risk?

National Geographic delivers an example of how dangerous a dog licking episode can be, in the case of Julie who had partially burnt her foot with hot water. It didn’t seem so bad until her little foxy followed his instincts and licked her wound. Soon after, Julie felt ill and by the time she got to the hospital, Julie couldn’t speak- while her arms and legs were numb and her face was turning purple! Doctors diagnosed she was in septic shock with bacteria in her bloodstream, which they soon learned was “capnocytophaga canimorsus,”  a bug found in the saliva of healthy dogs. This usually only affects people with a low immunity but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Training Your Dog to Heal


When a dog has surgery, it's important the area with stitches is kept away from a dog’s mouth. Some folks may tell their vet it's fine for their pup to lick the wound, as it's only natural! So many veterinarians come up against adamant pet parents who insist their fur baby does not need the cone, or “Elizabethan collar,” as it’s a well-known fact that dogs can heal their wounds.

The problem with this folklore thinking is your pup will likely pull out the stitches and re-open the wound, possibly causing an infection. It may be in their DNA to heal each other as wolves do in the wild - but incessant licking of a wound could cause more harm than good.

The “LEAVE IT” command is helpful, but only when you are around, so giving your princess-Papillion her favorite toy might be a good distraction to stop her licking.

When it comes to doggy friends who heal the heart of humans, you don’t have to look further than a therapy dog, who can help heal the emotional wounds of people suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Playing or stroking your beautiful Boxer can make you feel blissfully relaxed, as a stress-relieving hormone called oxytocin is released. Yes, dogs do this for us and are a pawfect gift for those struggling with their mental health.

Most dogs are naturally friendly and affectionate, making them wonderful companions for people whose emotional wounds are deep. If a dog is trained to be a PTSD service pup, their ability to help people will be greatly enhanced. They will help interrupt nightmares when their companion is sleeping plus make sure they take their medication. It takes a specialized trainer and a well-suited dog to do this kind of work.

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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